Friday, 11 November 2011

Blame H.I.

It's getting to that time of years when I start thinking about making Christmas cards, and because I have had a recurrence of the ailment that afflicted me a couple of days ago, I am now at home and sort of thinking about it.

I never used to send Christmas cards - in fact, when living on my own for years, I didn't bother celebrating Christmas either, but just holed up indoors rather like I am today, but usually not in as much pain. Then, when H.I.'s grandchildren arrived starting 19 years ago, Christmas suddenly became important again, and is now used (in this household) as the mid-winter distraction-fest that it was originally designed for before the bloody Christians hi-jacked it for their own political purposes.

Many years ago - on the spur of the moment - I decided to borrow someone's 1 ton pick-up and motor down to The Lizard in Cornwall, with the sole intention of picking up a few free lumps of the famous Serpentine rock which the entire peninsula is made of. I left on the morning of Christmas Eve, and eventually arrived in chilly Penzance, where I decided to spend the night.

I obtained the last spare hotel room in all of the town, in the largest of the hotels which was rammed with families down in Cornwall for a Christmas holiday. When I went down for dinner that evening, the waitress was distraught to have to tell me that there were no more Christmas turkey dinners left! I said that I couldn't care less, and asked for whatever they had to hand instead. I think I got an omelette.

When I sat down at my little table in a corner, I looked over to see a man of about 35 years of age, also sitting on his own and wearing a sombre dark suit which made him look like a solicitor. His cutlery was laid out in front of him, and as he waited for the turkey with all the trimmings, he ordered a quarter bottle of Champagne. I was transfixed with something between horror and pity.

He popped the cork of his ration of Champers, then reached out and picked up the cracker on the table. For one horrible moment, I thought he was going to look up and ask me to pull it with him, but he pulled it himself using both hands. He then extricated the bright green paper crown from inside it, unfolded it and put it on his head, without so much as the feintest smile. I couldn't bear to watch any more, so I finished my meal and went to my room to watch crap TV.

The next morning I drove down to The Lizard and spent a while looking around before I settled on a large, cliff-top car-park as my potential quarry. On the cliff edge of the car park, several large boulders of the indigenous rock were placed in a row right on the brink, to prevent people from actually driving over the edge and into the sea, which was a couple of hundred feet below. I spotted the very rock I wanted.

Having given it a bit of thought, I decided it would be best to ask the attendant if I could take this boulder, on the condition I replaced it with another so that a car could not drive between the two either side, sending the occupants to certain death. To my amazement, they just said "Yes", so that's what I did.

I don't know how much it weighed, but I guess around an eighth of a ton, so picking it up and walking to the car - which (for some reason) was parked several hundred yards uphill - was out of the question. To the bemusement of all the families going for a post-prandial Christmas walk on the cliffs, I rolled it - very slowly - to the truck. This took about half an hour.

There was one final obstacle before I could get it onto the truck, however - a wooden stile of about 4 feet in height. I looked around the landscape, and chose the beefiest of all the dads out walking on Christmas day, and asked him to give me a lift with it. Being the Season of Goodwill, he could hardly say no, and I think he almost had a heart-attack in the process. I was used to this sort of ludicrous activity, but the poor dad was obviously not. When he left me - wheezing and out of breath with his family looking on and laughing at him - he looked like he would have liked (if he had the energy) to kill me, Season of Goodwill or not.

Oh yes, the hare in the top of this post. Have you ever wondered who started the artistic craze to depict all the bloody hares in every size and medium that have saturated the Art World for the last 35 years? Well I can tell you. It was my own, dear H.I.

It must have been about 35 years ago when she and her now ex-husband designed and produced this little image as a Christmas card. Her ex - being a printer - reproduced it as a monochrome etching, and they duly folded them up and sent them to all their friends.

One of their friends was the famous British sculptor, Barry Flanagan. Early in the new year, Barry began producing the first of his now ubiquitous 'Hare' sculptures, and they were so charming and successful that every other sculptor in Britain began copying them in one form or another, on the basis that you cannot go wrong with a hare. They still are.

So you can blame the pestilential outbreak of hares on a Christmas card - this Christmas card above.


  1. The Hare is my personal favorite. Love that sketch.

    I have asked Santa for a bronze Hare from Paul Jenkins...

  2. And rightly so. There's something charmingly Victorian about a hare. Does H.I. sell cards, or still make them to send herself?

  3. I still love the Moon Gazing Hare, even though you see it everywhere now. My niece, who is a sculptor, has cast a massive bronze hare & we have a tiny replica which sits on our mantlepiece. Could H.I make some Christmas cards? ......I would buy some.
    I enjoyed reading your story but didn't like to think of you on your own on Christmas Day.

  4. I have given in to technology, and now send E-cards. One push on the 'send' button, and it's done with for another 365 days.

  5. I love painting hares - they have a lovely flowing line that seems to works well with water colour. I used to hanker after the Paul Jenkins bronze hares but they are just 'everywhere' now.

  6. I'd rather have one of the Flanagan hares, Chris - they're proper sculpture for a start, unlike the quite nice but essentially purely decorative Jenkins ones. Plus B.F.'s are worth more on resale. It's funny that P.J. along with thousands of other animal ceramicists uses that dead-easy-to-get-a-good-result stained and cracked glazing. That's become something of an old cliche now too.

    H.I. doesn't (right now) make cards, Mise. That - along with cooking - is my job, for some reason. I'll let you know is she starts to, Jack@home. You would have disliked the thought of me spending Christmas with my original family less, I think.

    Ecards? That's a hell of a cop-out for professional artist, Cro!

    Everyone's hares are everywhere now, Sue. One of the biggest culprits is Sophie Ryder - hers are so big that they cannot be easily ignored, worse luck. What is the point, I ask you?

  7. P.S. - At least Flanagan had the good manners to leave it a few thousand years before he started jumping on the Celtic hare bandwagon. Above is one of Flanagan's originals, just to show the difference between his and all the others.

  8. PPS - I've just lost a couple of followers. Maybe they were Christian sculptors?

  9. I'll look out for one then...

    ...and while I'm at it I'll pick up a couple of Henry Moore's too.


  10. Tom, that was a brilliant post. Hope you're better soon and I'm glad Christmas is good again for you and will be this year as well. Loved the bit about the lifting the boulder over the stile - good work.

  11. Tom - as you collect candlesticks, so I collect hares - I adore them and have images, pictures, sculptures etc. all over the house. But I only collect those which I consider to have 'hareness'. Some are so obviously not hares that I give them a miss. I have just had another one bought for my birthday and it will appear on my blog any day now. But I must say I really do like both of yours.

  12. There are hares in my big paddock as I read this. I like watching them. It's been a very mild winter so there's also about a million rabbits - don't like them at all!

  13. They're my own E-cards Tom; mustered with all my creative powers.

  14. Thanks Moll - I'm still poorly, but it should get a bit better over the weekend. I need surgery on my mouth (I bet you lot have been saying that for years...) but I am terrified. I'll just have to be brave, I suppose.

    I know what you mean about 'hareness' Weaver. I am probably being a bit harsh on people like Jenkins - what's wrong with decoration, after all? I don't like the back feet on the etching either - too much like horse's hooves!

    You must live near downland, Judith?

    Oh, ok then Cro - I'll let you off.